Congestion, loss of taste and smell, coughing, and postnasal drip are just some of the symptoms you may experience with nasal polyps.

Nasal polyps are non-cancerous growths that can form when the nasal passages and sinuses are inflamed. Small polyps may not cause any symptoms, but they can cause problems when they grow and multiply inside the nose.

This article discusses the signs and symptoms, causes, and potential complications of nasal polyps.

What are the signs and symptoms of nasal polyps?

Common signs and symptoms of nasal polyps are:

Loss of taste and smell
sinus pressure
Runny nose
Postnasal drip (feeling of constantly having to clear your throat)

Much of the reason why polyps cause these signs and symptoms is simply due to mass effect. Polyps physically obstruct the flow of air and odor to the proper places in the nose.

Many signs and symptoms of nasal polyps are the same as those of other nose and sinus conditions, including the common cold. It can therefore be difficult to determine whether the polyps are the cause of your problems. This is why it is recommended to consult a doctor if the symptoms last more than 10 days.

An ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist visually diagnoses nasal polyps by looking inside the nose using a small, thin telescope (nasal endoscope). If he finds polyps, he can offer different treatment options. Nasal corticosteroid (“steroid”) sprays, oral corticosteroids, and medications can reduce the size of polyps or eliminate them altogether. But if the medications don’t work, your doctor may recommend a minimally invasive procedure to remove the polyps. But nasal polyps often grow back and require long-term management.

What causes nasal polyps?

We still don’t know a lot about the causes of nasal polyps. They tend to develop in people with conditions that trigger long-term irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages or sinuses. These include people with asthma, allergies, drug sensitivities, repeated infections, and certain disorders.

For example, nasal polyps are present in 86% of people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes problems with breathing and digestion. People with CF have thick, sticky mucus that blocks the airways and traps germs.

But nasal polyps are perhaps most commonly associated with chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). This long-lasting condition occurs when the nasal passages and sinuses become inflamed and infected due to fluid buildup. Chronic rhinosinusitis affects nearly 12% of the adult population, and about 20% of people with chronic rhinosinusitis have nasal polyps.

However, we still don’t know much about the causes of nasal polyps. Some experts believe that people who develop polyps have different immune system responses and different chemical markers in their mucous membranes. Further research is needed.

Can nasal polyps be cancerous?

Nasal polyps are usually non-cancerous growths that appear on both sides of the nasal passages and sinuses. Unilateral nasal polyps, on the other hand, can be cause for concern. Patients should be concerned if they have symptoms on only one side of the nose. This is a unique situation that requires a biopsy, as it could be a tumor.

Research suggests that tumors make up a small percentage of diagnoses. In a study published in April 2018 in Northern Clinics of Istanbul, only eight (4%) of 195 cases of unilateral polyps turned out to be tumours. The other 187 cases (96%) were non-cancer. Unilateral polyps can be confused with other unilateral conditions, such as a deviated nasal septum or sinus mucocele. Nevertheless, it is advisable to have unilateral polyps examined, just in case.

Potential Complications of Nasal Polyps

If left untreated, nasal polyps will continue to grow, and eventually they will completely block nasal airflow. This congestion can have a major impact on your quality of life. When the nasal passages are blocked, people begin to breathe through their mouths, which can interfere with their sleep. Mouth breathing leads to sleep-disordered breathing, which is very important. Obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition in which you stop and start breathing during sleep, is a common type of sleep breathing disorder. The nose is the body’s preferred airway because breathing through the nose takes less effort than through the mouth. Also, breathing with the mouth closed keeps the tongue in place. When you breathe through your mouth, you lose the anchor of your tongue, which then slips into your airway and causes further obstruction.

Blockage in the nasal passages and sinuses can also make you more susceptible to asthma flare-ups and sinus infections. In the most severe cases, an infection associated with nasal polyps can spread into the eye socket or even into the brain. It can cause decreased vision or even blindness if it spreads to the eye socket, as well as inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). But these complications are not common, because most people treat their symptoms.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.